Wednesday, February 20, 2013

Cake and Castles

Dear Margaret,

Justin is here for the first signing of his book, Sandcastles and Other Stories, a collection of short stories that he self-published as an e-book and is now published by Green Darner Press and out in paperback. It was well reviewed in the Huffington Post, and is available widely. (Shameless promotion, I know, but perhaps the occasional lost reader who is not related to us will buy it. Our relatives have all been given copies.)

As you know, the best way to celebrate all life's occasions (birthdays, book publishings, Mondays) is with cake. I made the chocolate sour cream layers from Rosie's All Butter, Fresh Cream, Sugar-Packed, No Holds Barred Baking Book and frosted with a butter cream from Nigella Bites.

Amos made the umbrella. It was well received.

 Sour Cream Layers adapted from Rosie's etc etc etc

4 ounces unsweetened chocolate
2 cups sugar
1 and 1/2 cups flour
3/4 t baking soda
1/2 t salt
1 cup coffee
1/2 cup sour cream or whole yogurt
1/2 cup canola  oil
2 eggs

Preheat oven to 350. Grease two 8" pans, line the bottoms with parchment, grease the parchment, and then dust the whole insides with flour.

Melt the chocolate. I used the microwave.

Sift the dry ingredients into the KitchenAid.

Mix the coffee, sour cream or yogurt and the canola oil thoroughly.

Add the wet ingredients to the dry, mixing on low speed until fully incorporated. Add the eggs, one at a time, mixing well after each addition. Lastly, blend in the melted chocolate.

Put the batter in the pans (obviously) and bake for 30ish minutes depending on your oven. Don't over cook.

Let cool in pans and when completely cool frost with your favorite chocolate frosting. I like a whipped frosting that is not too greasy and I found that in this:

Fudge Frosting from Nigella Bites

6 ounces bittersweet chocolate
18 T unsalted butter at room temperature
1 3/4 confectioners sugar, sifted. Really sifted. Not optional.
1 T vanilla

Melt the chocolate. Beat the butter until light and creamy, then add the SIFTED confectioners sugar. Beat in the melted chocolate which by now should be somewhat cool, and the vanilla. Try to exercise enough restraint that there is enough frosting left to cover the cake.


Friday, February 15, 2013

Cleaning out the freezer

Dear Marg,

My hairdresser has inspired me to be more vigilant on energy conservation. Enlightenment comes from many directions. I've decided to empty the freezer in the basement and unplug it. There's not much in it anyway, just a few ancient pieces of meat and some of Scottish Highlander beef that will easily fit in the freezer in the kitchen.

The first ancient piece of meat was a Ham Roast, I think from the pig that Bruce and Kiki raised while they were still married and they've been divorced for at least 12 years. I fed it to the coyotes, or at least I tried to. Pemba did her coyote impersonation and got some of it. The magpies got a bunch. Abby's dog Pete scented it from 200 yards away and quartered through deep snow to reach it. I finally put it in a tree.

The second ancient piece of meat was Leg of Lamb, labeled Not for Sale. I don't recall it's provenance. Lamb stew seemed an acceptable destination for it. I imposed upon Amos to cut it up, thinking what a horrible job that would be. Turns out it had no bone so he made short work of it.

I made Lamb Stew with Figs and Lemons from Epicurious. Changed a few things because, really, who has a 14 oz can of tomatoes on the shelf?

It was yummy. And totally Paleo.

There's one more ancient piece of meat. Thinking the coyotes deserve another crack at it.

Love, Elise

Wednesday, February 13, 2013


                As you know from my endless stream of whingey texts, I have been following the Paleo eating plan for a little over a week now. To be completely accurate, I’ve been following the Primal plan. Primal allows for some dairy—whole milk, plain yogurt—while Paleo takes a hard No-Dairy line. Unless you want to be Lacto Paleo, “And Bingo was his Name-o.” I don’t think so. (Primal is actually an entire lifestyle with recommendations for sleep, “lots and in the dark,” exercise, “pushups are the perfect primal exercise” and sun exposure, “you need your Vitamin D.”)
                The Primal nutrition guidelines are; no grains, no legumes, no sugar, no processed foods and no potatoes.  His Lordship’s first comment was, “The ‘don’t eat’ list is too long.”
                Paleo or Primal people swap recipes, (meat crust quiche, anyone?), add bacon to everything, (why wouldn’t Asian slaw be better with bacon?) and invent creative substitutions. Shredded cauliflower is rice. Shredded cauliflower with almond meal makes grits. And you can just imagine all the places they try to tuck spaghetti squash. 
                The problem with these substitutions is that color and shape, do not a starch make. What is satisfying about rice is the way it soaks up the sauce. Shredded cauliflower just floats around in the sauce, like one more vegetable, albeit one you have taken the time to chop finer than confetti.  Spaghetti squash will not wrap around a fork or hold up to the tossing necessary for a good carbonade. Not that you can have the cheese anyway.
                I have developed a fondness for stewed fruit. I have discovered cashew butter. I learned that scrambled eggs cooked with olive oil are disgusting. I learned I am not a vegetables-for-breakfast person.
                I miss honey and chocolate, but you know what that’s like having gone without sugar, and in December! This would be a challenge on par with climbing K2 in high heels if it were December.
                The only time I miss toast is when I have eaten a banana with cashew butter, an orange, 3 scrambled eggs, a handful of almonds and 5 prunes and I’m still hungry. And that only happens once a day.
                Love, Margaret

Egg “Muffins”
Adapted from Paleo Comfort Foods  by Julie and Charles Mayfield

·         ½ onion, finely chopped
·         1 red pepper, finely chopped
·         8 oz chorizo or another sausage or even bacon, diced
·         6 eggs

Preheat oven to 350.
Saute chorizo in a medium hot pan until browned. Turn the heat down and add the onion and pepper. Cook until softened and then set aside and allow this to cool slightly.
Whisk the eggs.
Spray 6 large muffin cups or small ramekins with oil.
Add the sausage onion mixture to the eggs, stir to combine and pour into the muffin cups. Don’t fill all the way.
Bake for 15 minutes, maybe longer. The muffins will puff up and rise above the top of their cups when done. Wait for this or the centers will still be runny.


Saturday, February 9, 2013

A Smattering of Smoothies

                I have been on a smoothie kick lately.
                This week’s smoothies:
                Monday – Mixed melon w raspberries and basil. Tasty and fruity, but not healthy enough.
                Tuesday – Adult kale, melon, raspberries. OK too healthy. Adult kale is not a breakfast food, not if you care about that day’s digestive comfort.
                Wednesday – A beet, some melon, some raspberries and a piece of ginger. The flavor was dirt first, then a bland sweetness followed by residual heat from the ginger. This was OK, tolerable enough that with a little tweaking, it might be good.
                Thursday – A beet, some almonds, some cocoa nibs, some coconut milk and a date. I couldn’t’ finish this one. Gritty, sweet, chunky and just unpleasant.
                Friday was too cold for a smoothie. I had Thai coconut chicken soup, which, to quote Rory, “was delicious.”
                Today – Whole milk, frozen raspberries and a scoop of protein powder. The best yet.
                The weekday smoothies are for general health, hence the vegetables. Today’s was for recovery after a long bike ride. The take-away is that recovery food is better than health food.  This time of year, that might be the motivation I need to get on the bike.
                Next week, perhaps I'll try an actual recipe.
Love, Margaret

Thai Coconut Chicken Soup
·         1 onion
·         1 lb shitake mushrooms, sliced
·         2 lbs boneless, skinless breasts, cut into bite-sized pieces
·         4-6 C chicken broth, preferably home made
·         1 can coconut milk
·         1-4 TB red curry paste, I use Thai Kitchen
·         3 TB fish sauce, or to taste
·         3-6 TB lime juice
·         2-4 TB honey
·         Cilantro
Soften onion in some oil in a large pot, add the mushrooms and let them brown a bit.
Remove all this to a bowl, add more oil to the pot and cook the chicken pieces. They just need to be no longer pink.
Return the onions and mushrooms to the pot; add the coconut milk and the broth. Use more broth if that is the kind of soup you like, I prefer less broth and it becomes a soupy stew.
Stir in your curry paste. I used ¾ of a 4 oz jar, but this jar is set to expire in 6 months. If your curry paste is fresher, start sparingly. I have made things way too hot with this curry paste.
Add honey, fish sauce and lime juice to taste. Stir, and then let it all simmer for 10-20 minutes.
Garnish with cilantro.

Crow Hill

Dear Marg,

We had the most delightful surprise last week when a can of Crow Hill maple syrup arrived in the mail. Weezie had sent it to Seattle first so it took a round trip between there and Vermont before finding us here. A new batch of Grade A Dark Amber luxury merited waffles, and not just any waffles but Yeast Raised Waffles.

I use a recipe adapted from Marion Cunningham's Lost Recipes. I love this book. It's full of things like New England Boiled Dinner and Candied Carrots and Tomato Aspic and Rhubarb Betty.

The waffles are light and tender, but with a delicate outer layer that is just barely crispy. The flavor is mild and slightly doughy, but in a good, yeasty way. You have to start the waffles the night before so they rarely grace our breakfast table. But today!

It's a beauty day and now I'm going to work off the waffles with xc skiing under the Boulders. Hope you have a great day with the 3 hour bike ride on the trainer and the Paleo meals.

Love, Elise

Recipe (adapted from Lost Recipes)

1/2 c warm water
1 T yeast
2 cups warm milk
4T butter (1/2 stick) melted
1t salt
1t sugar
2 c flour (I use plain white for ultimate tenderness)
2 eggs
1/4 t baking soda

Mix the water and the yeast together in a big bowl and let it proof. And the milk, melted butter, salt and sugar and mix well. Really beat it until it's smooth. Cover with plastic wrap and leave it on the counter overnight.

The next morning, right before you are ready to eat, add the eggs and baking soda and mix again. Then make waffles in the regular way. Boy, oh boy!